It was a long journey, and it’s finally over. I sold the site I have been working on for two and a half years, and I couldn’t be happier.
I want to share most of the details here and provide a review of the selling process on Empire Flippers. By the way, I also sold another site (for less than 10K) to a private buyer, so I will share the details of the second transaction as well.
My Site Stats
This site was my second (the first one was alisher.io), which I started after joining the Income School program. At the time, I wasn’t sure that I could build something worth thousands of bucks. I was just curious how far I can go because building things is what I love doing (I am a software developer, after all).
Anyway, by applying things I learned at Income School, I was able to grow a significant asset while having a day job.
At the end of the last year, I had 130 posts and a dozen “money” pages with Amazon products. I wrote most of the posts – 130 posts in 2.5 years is not a lot, even if you can only spend a couple of hours every night.
The traffic on the site had a tendency to go down in November-December every year, but for some reason, it would pick up again in May-June. Below are the monthly pageviews for the last 14 months. As you can see, last year, Google didn’t punish me as it used to do in late fall, so I was able to get top dollar for my baby.
Income School, especially in the early days, used to say that it is possible to build big sites without link building.
Since most other SEO “experts” claimed otherwise, I decided to divert my attention from writing new content and spend about three months reaching out to various e-commerce shops and pitching guest posts.
I was able to publish several guest posts on only four low authority sites, so I don’t think this campaign moved a needle even a bit.
Bottom line, if you ask would I do it again knowing what I know, I’d say no, it wasn’t worth it.
Since I am a software developer, I chose a technology niche, hoping that my credentials will help me authority-wise, and also, I wanted to work on something I wanted to learn more about.
Unfortunately, I didn’t know I picked a very competitive niche dominated by a few highly authoritative sites. That’s why I think it took me too long to grow the site.
On the other hand, I learned so many new things, so I don’t regret my decision.
The site was monetized by display ads (Mediavine) and affiliate sales (Amazon, Commission Junction, Impact). Mediavine was bringing about 85% of the revenue.
Why I Sold My Website
As I mentioned earlier, my site usually would lose significant traffic in late fall, so I was totally expecting it would happen again. Fortunately, I was wrong last year. But, the fear that the site could go down again pushed me to sell it while I had a chance.
The best time to sell the website is when its traffic is rapidly growing. Websites growing 20-30% month over month get the highest multiples. Also, the pool of interested buyers is significantly higher compared to websites with flat or declining traffic.
Another reason behind my decision is the loss of interest. I have other projects, and I stopped writing anything for this site six months ago. In hindsight, stopping producing new content was a good thing.
A price of a website is a multiple of profit, not revenue. And the easiest way to increase profit is by reducing expenses (usually new content).
Also, when I was filling out forms on the EF website, I honestly noted that I work only 1 hour a week on my website since I stopped writing for it a long time ago.
Selling Web Site To EF Timeline
First Contact and Vetting
Once I decided to get rid of my blog, I used the valuation tool on Empire Flippers and got the initial quote. Shortly, I received a call from an EF rep. We talked about the process, and he assured me that I could sell my website for about 44x of L6M (last 6 months). Needless to say, I was blown away because I thought the current multiples were 35x of L12M (last 12 months).
My initial contact happened on December 1, but I wanted to sell the site in January (for personal reasons, I wanted to minimize last year’s taxes).
So, I had a month to gather all information needed for sale. And it was a lot!
When they created an account for me in their portal, they gave me around 20 tasks to complete:
- Verify Identity
- Upload proof of income
- Answer multiple questionaries
- Provide revenue screenshots
- Provide access to GA and GSC
- Fill out P&L forms
Ready for Publishing
The listing went live in the second week of January. Since December is the second highest in revenue month (after November), the listing price was adjusted accordingly and was increased again.
When the listing goes live on EF, buyers can only see the limited information, such as general niche, site age, monthly multiples, and whether traffic is increasing or decreasing.
Interested buyers ask to unlock the listing, and the seller can see the name of the buyers requested unlocks. Since the seller had to provide administrator access to Google Analytics, there is an automatic job in the EF platform that gives read-only access to potential buyers, so you don’t have to do it yourself.
If the buyer decides to pass on the website after reviewing more information, they can retract the unlocks. Also, the buyers who were not responsive for some time lose their locks automatically.
One task you should complete is to mark your calendar with one-hour slots when you can talk to potential buyers. I tried to mark at least two slots each day, before and after work, because some buyers live in other timezones, and I wanted to provide them more opportunities to talk to me.
Overall, I had two screening interviews and a couple of follow-up interviews with the operator who eventually bought my site.
Interviews are informal. The buyers want to know how you produce the content, how long you have been in business, whether you do any link building, whether you use PBNs, etc.
Offer and Negotiation
After several weeks my EF rep called me and told me that one of the buyers was interested, but instead of offering 44x L6M, he was offering 44x L12M. The difference was significant, so at first, I was inclined to reject it. But then, after some consideration, I decided to counter the offer a bit.
My representative told me that most likely, the buyer will ask for a no circulation agreement.
Here’s how bidding works on the Empire Flippers platform:
- A buyer makes an offer
- If the seller accepts the offer, all other potential buyers get a one-day chance to bid by offering 10% more.
So, by asking for a no circulation agreement, the buyer was eliminating other potential bids.
I agreed, the buyer transferred money to the Empire Flippers account, and the deal moved to the next stage: In Migration.
The migration process took quite a long time. At one point, after multiple back and forth, my EF rep suggested having a zoom call, so we could do everything online.
I transferred all my assets: domain, website assets, YouTube channel, my affiliate accounts with Commission Junction and Impact. The last two were unexpected to me. Since I had more than one website, I used both CJ and Impact for multiple purposes.
I had to change the account emails to domain emails in order to transfer them away. Fortunately, I didn’t have to transfer my Amazon account. Transferring Mediavine was even easier. I just contacted MV, and they moved the domain from my account to the buyers.
After finishing the migration, the transaction moved into the Inspection period. During the inspection, the buyer has a chance to verify traffic, income, and other things.
Additionally, we have to provide the remaining balance figures. Because most affiliate accounts have Net30 or Net60 payment terms, the money could go to the buyer or seller when they had to go to the opposite party.
Once the EF calculated the remaining balances, they first subtracted 15% commission (ouch!) and then subtracted the amount of the remaining balance.
And on Wednesday, I received my check.
Empire Flippers Pros and Cons
At the beginning of this year, I sold two websites: via EF and to a private buyer. So, here are the differences between the two transactions and my thoughts.
Empire Flippers Pros
There are several platforms where one can buy and sell websites. Probably the most popular (because they are among the first ones) are Flippa and Empire Flippers.
Most people SEO experts and operators source their websites from both platforms. But most people would agree that EF has a much higher reputation for good deals than Flippa. So, when there is a need to buy a 6,7,8 figure business, most people would prefer to work with EF than any other platform.
Large Pool of Verified Buyers
One of the most important advantages of EF is its Rolodex of buyers. As far as I know, buyers have to prove that they have the means to buy businesses on the platform.
On the other hand, with Flippa, you never know whether the buyer has money to buy your business or not.
This is not a problem if you know what to do. For instance, I sold the second website to a private buyer. I had never met him before, and we didn’t have a single call; everything was done via email. But we both used Escrow.com during the transaction, which gave us both confidence when we were working on the deal.
But, having a large pool of buyers, as EF does, makes it easier to sell your online business.
Buyers Willing to Buy 6-7 Figure Websites
Another major difference between EF and other platforms is that buyers here are mostly interested in large deals. The site I sold was definitely on the lower end, but I doubt that I would be able to find a similar buyer in a private Facebook group or another smaller platform.
Thorough Vetting Process (Both Buyers and Sellers)
The vetting process is hard and time-consuming, at least for sellers. Empire Flippers claim that they reject 91% of businesses, which is a good thing because buyers don’t have to sift through junk ads and look for diamonds.
As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t expect 44x multiple. I know now that this is not the highest, and I know why and how to improve it. But in any case, the multiple was higher than I expected, and I am quite happy about it.
Empire Flippers Cons
High Commissions (up to 15%)
Empire Flippers have commission tiers, but most solo blog owners will most likely pay 15% commissions of the sale price.
If you add 30%-40% of Uncle Sam’s share, you end up with significantly less money than you hoped for. That’s why I suggest thinking hard before you are ready to sell your business. Sometimes having a passive income stream is better than one large payout.
Migration Process is Slow
I only sold one site on the platform, so I can only share my experience. I received the offer on February 1, and I had money in the bank on March 16. It took a month and a half to make sure that everything was transferred and vetted, and so on.
I believe that some blame for slowness can be assigned to the buyer. This particular buyer was in the process of migrating several businesses at the same time, so he wasn’t most responsive.
Fortunately, I was not in a hurry, and I was trying to be patient. But, on the other hand, I just wanted to get over it and move on to another project.
How To Build a 6 Figure Web Site
Many people ask how to make money with a website, especially if you don’t want to sell anything. One way is to build an informational site and monetize with display ads. All you have to do is two things:
- Drive a lot of traffic to your site
- Make sure that the traffic is moderately valuable. For example, traffic from US and UK is more valuable than traffic from 3rd world countries because advertisers prefer to target English speaking countries more and pay more.
While it is hard to predict whether your niche will attract mostly US traffic (point #2), there are many courses that can teach you SEO (driving more traffic). I took multiple courses in the last three years, and two stood out.
First, it’s a P24 program from Income School. The premise of the program is that you can build a blog that will bring $4,000 (they call it full-time income) in 24 months. It doesn’t always happen – I reached $4k per month after 28 months.
But if you trust the process, if you are a smarter than average person and put a lot of effort (especially in the first six months), you are more or less likely to guarantee to build a 6-figure website (44x multiple of $4,000 is $176,000).
Another recommended course is Fat Stacks. The Fat Stacks owner, Jon, had built his business on generating traffic and monetizing with ads long before advertisers started paying better than Amazon.
However, I believe that the two programs target different types of blog owners. Income School attracts mainly beginners, so if you are just starting, it’s best to go with P24.
The main advantage of Fat Stacks is its forum, and, in my opinion, Fat Stacks forum members are more advanced than P24-ers.
This was a long journey, and I am glad that it’s over. I have other interesting projects, and I hope to reach even higher goals. Meanwhile, if you have any questions, please leave comments.